Regardless of where or how you plan to spend this New Year's Eve, chances are, it's going to involve a toast at midnight. So might I suggest you make it count? Whether your budget's $14 or $140, I urge you to put away the overpriced and overplayed White Star, and make room for one of these bottles of bubbly. Each of these bottles made an indelible mark on my mind (and palate) in 2014; they deserve a spot at the New Year's Eve table.
Never heard of Crémant de Borgogne? Although it's a growing category, neither have most people — and that's why it's still a spectacular value. Veuve Ambal's entry-level cuvée, a blend of 50 percent Ugni Blanc and 50 percent Chardonnay, is masterful example of the Burgundian bubbly; light-bodied, with sprightly bubbles and fruity, mouthwatering aromas, it's the kind of easy-to-drink sensation that one could enjoy for hours.
Self-proclaimed "Cava missionary" Pere Ventura Vendrell exudes playfulness; the quirky proprietor of Pere Ventura hands out cards with the words "I AM" emblazoned on them. The winery's brut rosé has the same playful quality, its intense pink color hinting at a fresh strawberry bouquet and a fruity, dry finish.
Crémant de Limoux is another French value outside of the Champagne category. Along with its lemony bouquet and limestone minerality, this Chardonnay-based bottle, from Toques et Clochers, offers a creamy, fine mousse and a sweet finish. A fun bonus story to share with friends: winemaker Laurent Mingaud makes sure a percentage of profits each year go to renovating one building in a Limoux village; In 2014, proceeds went to the renovation of an old church.
It's said that Queen Victoria loved Joseph Perrier (hence the name Cuvée Royale). And who could blame her? The blend of 35 percent Chardonnay, 35 percent Pinot Noir, and 30 percent Pinot Meunier invites with rich, lemon-lime aromas, refined bubbles, and a nice, long finish.
This special cuvée, a blend of Joseph Perrier's four best Pinot Noir and four best Chardonnay crus blended together, has layers of flavor: fresh pear, soft apple spice, an extremely delicate mousse, and a lingering finish that seemingly lasts forever.